It came out of nowhere, materializing from the dull chemical haze that permeated the reclamation plant between herself and Claire. It looked similar to the haunted masses of metal and concrete given a vaguely humanoid form that they had just put down, but with noticeably less metal and a lot more earth-like material. Given the relative rarity of soil in Angelus, especially the more industrial and production areas and that they were in a sewage reclamation plant, Tyche could only surmise that what held this monstrosity together was not dirt. She was not about to break the seals on her HAZMAT suit to find out if her guess was correct.
The creature swung with one of its massive arm-like appendages and missed on the sheer virtue that Tyche had leapt backwards several feet. It was a decision she made in a panic, and one she instantly regretted; instead of advancing for another attack, the creature threw a mass of something that it disgorged from its body. The wet mass hit Tyche square in the chest, momentarily knocking the wind out of her, and immediately expanded to envelop her.
As Tyche was being encased in what she hoped was rapidly hardening concrete, she saw muzzle flashes and maser fire cutting through the gloom. They don’t know what happened! Panic started its slow, icy creep up her spine. “Oh god! It’s buried me! I… help! I can’t move!” No, stop it! Don’t panic. There is no need to panic. Fear is the mind-killer, and panicking would only make things worse. Calming herself, Tyche finalized that between Jack and Claire with Jaden supporting them, they should be able to take care of the mess quickly enough and then get her out and everything would be fine.
The idea of resigning herself to simply wait it out was cut short when she heard a pained squeak from Clair that was suddenly cut off. Tyche cursed aloud and thought furiously about what to do, what could she do? Damn you old man for making me play fair!
Even though Fate governed objects differently than living things and Luck was rarely a factor when it came to inanimate objects, it was possible that maybe there was a structural flaw in the makeshift tomb, something that only could be found by sheer chance rather than brute force. It could work.
Closing her eyes, Tyche reached out and found some strands, they were faint, as she expected them to be, but she reached out and tugged upon them lightly in experimentation. It wasn’t much, but it was at least something she could work with. She tightened her grip and pulled what little Luck her bonds possessed and claimed it for herself. After all, what does debris need with Luck? It would take time to tip things in her favor and break out of this makeshift prison, but Tyche was convinced that it could be done.
The electro-static yelp of surprise and pain from Jaden over the comm broke her concentration. Shit! No time to do this right, they need me now! Reaching out with both hands and expanding her reach Tyche tightened her grip and pulled on the tenuous strands with more force. She knew she was now pulling the Luck from more than just the barrier and now was pushing her own, but she had to get out. Now! The resonating thud and string of curses from Jack only solidified Tyche’s decision. Exerting all of her strength, she kicked her legs out. Her efforts were rewarded as the concrete cracked and shattered with the force of her blow.
Finding her feet and drawing her maser, Tyche wasted no time in making her way to where she last saw her teammates. “Claire? Jaden? Findlay?” Static. She frowned and tried to get a better idea of her surroundings, her boot finding Claire’s prone form on the ground. Ok, Claire’s—is that? Oh god no! Nonononononono. This can’t be happening. No. No way. Not like this! “Officer down! Jack! Jaden! Report in and give me a status report!” More static. “DAMMIT!” She keyed in to the XSWAT communications net and gave a brief report while frantically looking for some sort of patch kit. Dammit! Why did there have to be so much blood? “Hang in there Claire, You’re gonna be ok, help’s on the way. I—” Tyche bit back tears of rage, fear and frustration. Now that she could actually see her surroundings, she could also see the strings of Fate. Fuck balance. She reached into the astral abyss and took hold of the strings of Fate, all of them, with both hands. Fuck Nicodemus. She wrapped the threads around her wrists, tightening her grip. Fuck the gods! She then pulled as hard as she could.
From a metaphysical perspective, the world moved, just for a moment and just for Tyche. For that briefest of moments, the universe would obey her every whim.
When Tyche regained her senses she noticed little had changed, but it was enough. Claire was still in a bad way but stabilized and the bleeding had stopped as well. The quick patch-job was anything but neat and pretty, but she would survive and that was good enough.
* * * * *
“…you alright? Hey Sergeant, you awake?”
Tyche blinked out of her revere and looked to the hospital orderly addressing her. A young man, likely new to the ward, stood a comfortable distance away holding a datapad. “You’re here to see 404, right?”
The sterile hospital light glittered threateningly across the surface of Tyche’s metallic candy-apple red sunglasses as she stood slowly. “Claire is not a number.”
“I… er….” he stammered for a moment, looked at the datapad and then to the officer in front of him. “Look, I’m just reading what they’ve got here as a last name all right? Anyway, says here that she should be released soon.”
Her face lightened just slightly. “That’s good to hear.” The orderly started to follow, but was waved off. “I know where her room is, and I’m sure she’s expecting me anyway, it is about that time.”
Arriving at Claire’s room, Tyche knocked lightly and peeked her head in. “Claire? You awake?” Without waiting for an answer, she stepped into the room and closed the door behind her. “You’ve got a visitor.”
As Tyche entered the room, she was greeted by the sound of someone trying to very quickly finish what remained of a bowl of hospital food. Flowers were arranged nearby in little baskets on a side table. Small cards attached to them announced that they brought feelings of warmth and sympathy from Angie, Jenny, and Sandy respectively. The morning sun glinted off their petals as the rain beat a steady staccato outside the windows.
Near the middle of the room Claire sat upright in her hospital bed, a tray of muffins and orange juice before her. She sat her now-empty bowl on the tray, and placed the spoon in it. "Mornin' Tyche! Can you ask the nurse if I can have some more of that mushy stuff, whatever it is?"
“…mushy stuff?” Tyche repeated slowly as she pulled up a chair beside the bed. She then noticed the empty bowl and nodded in understanding “Oh. That’s oatmeal.” A pause accompanied by a hint of distaste. “Are you sure about that? This is hospital food.” A look from her partner was all that Tyche needed to decide that Claire, in fact, was crazy. Maybe she got hit harder than I thought…. “I’ll see what I can do.” She said with a smile. “So, how are you feeling today?”
"Oatmeal..." Claire tried the word out for size, "I haven't had that before. Could use a touch of cinnamon, but that's really yummy."
Her tail waggled lamely over the edge of the bed. "I'm still a little woozy, but the doctor says I should be alright from here."
Another nod. “Yeah, I think the worst is over now.” She trailed off and was silent for a few moments. “You know, I still can’t help but feel that this is my fault somehow. I mean, maybe if I had been a little smarter about going in there, getting better information from Fannin or something….”
A hint of sadness crept across Claire's face. "Aww. Don't blame yourself. I don't blame you." She thought about it for a second and then nodded. "Findlay might, but I don't blame you."
"Here, have one! Chrysine... I mean, Captain Winterfox dropped them off this morning." She picked up one of the muffins from the tray in front of her and offered it to Tyche, straining as she did so. "Owwee owwee owwee."
Tyche smiled and then shifted to meet Claire halfway. “Hey now! Don’t strain yourself. You’re still healing up.” Taking the offered treat, she sat back down. “Thanks…”she smiled again as she started unwrapping the muffin and took a bite. Apparently her partner’s baking had done a good job of spoiling her. The captain’s gift was merely adequate in comparison. “Well, if he’s upset, then he’s got nobody to blame but himself, because the only thing he can blame me for is letting him do what he does best.” A not entirely true statement, but that was her story and she had no intentions of telling anybody otherwise.
There was another length of silence as she “If you don’t mind talking about it… what happened?”
The events were still a tad hazy to Claire. Maybe it was the fear, or the injuries, or maybe even the meds, but it seemed a blur. "It bit me. I think. The doctor said I had puncture wounds that looked like they came from teeth. I've got one here. Ow. And here. Ow. And here. Ow. And here. Ow. And another one here. Ow." Concern and realization spread across her face. "That's a big mouth. I'm gonna need a bigger muffin."
Behind Claire a monitor blinked, the steady stream of vital signs replaced, for just the briefest of moments, by the image of a burning eye.
“Is tha—” Tyche took hold of Claire’s hand to keep her from continuing. “Ok, you need to stop that, that’s just going to aggravate the wound. And to be honest, I don’t think you could make enough muffins to feed whatever it was that bit you.” She took a deep breath and exhaled. “Sorry… I was just really worried about you.”
"I wasn't. Not one bit." Claire smiled. "Well, maybe a lot when I lost you in the mist, but only for a moment cuz' I know we are awesome! In fact, lets not get too separated next time. That was less than awesome."
“Huh…well, I guess that’s one way to look at it. I actually wasn’t too worried until after I got buried in cement.” Tyche looked at the partially eaten muffin in her hands. “I’m just glad I had the foresight to get all of us in those HAZMAT suits before going in the building, otherwise things would probably have gone a lot differently.” She smiled slightly. “I’ll talk to Tovera and see if there is some sort of training or something that we can do to help us get better at sticking together so we don’t have a repeat, sound good?”
"Yup! Those HAZMAT suits were a good call. I should tell them I'm sorry for getting holes in mine, though." Claire proceeded to gulp down the rest of her juice. "Did we ever find out how that thing got in there?"
“No… well, maybe Jack did, or Tovera when she got back from that meeting.” She shrugged her shoulders. “If they passed that info along in a brief I probably either missed it or wasn’t paying attention. Though to be honest, I don’t care so much about how it got in there or where it came from and am more concerned about why in the hell Fannin tried to keep us out of there in the first place.”
The Clade's head tilted from side to side as she processed the information. "Well, what if the two are related? Maybe Mr. Fannin did something he shouldn't and then he was tryin' to cover it up? Isn't that usually how these things turn up?" She waggled her tail a little bit more. She felt way too weak for her level of comfort.
Tyche scratched the side of her chin. “The thought has occurred to me, but I’ve been a little busy over the past week and haven’t had much time to actually act on that. I’ll ask Tovera if she managed to pull something when I see her next.” She adjusted her sunglasses slightly. “Hell, I may even pass the question off to the old man, just in case… as much as I hate running to him whenever something starts looking a little odd, he may have some sort of insight, no matter how twisted, convoluted and confusing it is.”
There was a brief pause in the conversation as Claire pressed her index fingers together. "I—I hope I didn't distract you from your duties. We probably should try to figure out if these things are connected."
She grinned in response. “Not at all. Being here and making sure everything is going okay for you, as well as Jaden, is more important than anything going on at the office. I don’t care what anybody else says. And there will be time enough to figure things out anyway, so now we should focus on what matters.”
Tyche placed a finger on Claire's forehead. "Like making sure you get properly healed up."
Claire reached up and wrapped her arms around Tyche, and hugged her with what little strength she had. "You take such good care of me, Tyche. And I'm not just saying that because of the three milligrams of dilalaa. Delalo. Dilaudid. Yeah, that's the one."
She held the hug for some time, as she sat back down; Tyche removed her sunglasses and held them in her lap. “Well… why shouldn’t I? Like I said before, you’re my partner… and….” there was a long pause as Tyche debated on exactly what to say and how to say it. “…and, well, you’re one of the only people I know I consider to be a friend. Most of the people I hung out with before really only cared about the parties, the sex or my money. The majority of the people in XSWAT aren’t really the sort of people I would want to associate with outside of the workplace for any number of reasons. Nicodemus is the next closest thing, but he is less like a friend and more like a business partner… and that’s on a good day…”
Claire's ears flicked out of sequence. "You're a good person, Tyche. You should have more friends. Tell ya what. The moment I get out of here, we can do something productive. We can plant a house, or we could build a tree." She paused to parse through what she said, rubbing one side of her face with a hand. "Wait, that's the meds talking. I don't even know how to build a tree. I'll bake you a cake."
“You keep believing that kiddo… I’ll keep trying to not let you down…” she replied under her breath as she put her sunglasses back on. “That’s alright.” Tyche smiled. “I think it would also be pretty difficult to plant a house around here too.”
"A cake it is then," she nodded. "It'll be red velvet, so it matches your glasses."
There you are.
With a loud ‘pop’ the lights went out in the room. There was a few seconds of dimness, then the emergency lamps clicked on, casting circles of actinic on the floor and walls. For a moment all was quiet, then the screams began.